I didn’t want to revisit the text in English. I chose sentences at random and translated them hastily without consulting the published Italian translation. I have yet to compare them.
Crossing cultural and linguistic boundaries is a key theme in this first collection of stories by Lahiri, indeed in all her work. Born in London, reared in New England, she was in Rome when she sat down to create her First Editions, Second Thoughts annotations, and she did it with an interesting twist. She has crossed out numerous passages and re-wrote them in Italian! “I didn’t want to revisit the text in English,” she tells us in an e-mail. “I chose sentences at random and translated them hastily without consulting the published Italian translation. I have yet to compare them.” On the title page she has struck the word “Stories” and written “racconti.” She has made this transformation on roughly half of the book’s pages. “Each time he thought of that moment, the last moment he saw Shoba pregnant…” “Ogni volta che pensava a quel momento…” In a few instances she ponders a number of Italian synonyms that might fit the case. For the English phrase “out of the woodwork,” she has offered the alternatives of “emergere/stagliarsi/risaltare/apparire.” A fascinating exercise, as if the author were trying on a new identity. It forces the reader in turn to step out of her own linguistic comfort zone and see the words (and the world?) afresh.
LAHIRI, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. 8°. Illustrated wrappers.